With the second largest deep-water natural harbor in the world, Trincomalee contains fascinating history dating back to ancient times. Most westerners may recall World War II history when “Trinco” was still a British and Dutch Naval Base. The Japanese bombings in 1942 left several of these naval ships sunk.
It was very touching to visit the Commonwealth War Cemetery and to realize how many young men were sacrificed here, including an Unknown Burmese who fought for the British.
It was also nice to chat with the kind caretaker who showed some photos of his father, the former caretaker, and mother, during a visit of Princess Anne who came to plant a tree 20 years ago. The tree is now grown beautifully.
More recent history is the end of the civil war and Tamil Tiger conflict in 2009 which has now allowed tourism to boom again along the beaches and with divers going out to explore the old shipwrecks.
Trincomalee is also a sacred Hindu pilgrim site and is also known as the Kailash of the South.
The Koneswaram Temple is where King Ravana once reigned.
Ravana may have landed his Dandu Monara– the majestic peacock and the world’s first passenger aircraft with the abducted Sita from the Ramayana on a different airstrip though, as Ravana did rule over a large area of Lanka. It is wonderful following the Ramayana Trail in Sri Lanka which uncovers layers of myths and stories- far more stories than we hear about in Bali and the famous Kecak dance could perhaps include some more episodes to the repertoire.
To reach the Koneswaram Temple, you drive through the old gates of Fort Frederick originally built by the Portuguese and re-built by the Dutch.
On top of the Rock lay three ancient temples overlooking the sea. It is here where Ravana cut a cleft into the rock now known as Lover’s Leap and where you can see the sacred Swayambhu Lingam which was given to Ravana by Shiva.
The Portuguese had thrown this sacred lingam into the sea back in 1624.
Other sacred images of deities including Vishnu and Laksmi were discovered during an excavation in British times. But it was only in 1962 that a dive expedition re-discovered the ancient Lingam. The scuba-dive team included Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001 Space Odyssey who fell in love with Sri Lanka and lived here until he passed away. Arthur C. Clarke described the lingam discovery in his book Reefs of Taprobane. For the team member who first spotted the lingam, the experience was apparently so profound- he renounced his career and family to become a Hindu Swami.
Today the Koneswaram Temple is an oasis of peace with devotees coming to worship and where visitors from all over the world are welcome. It was so nice meeting some of the sweetest people relieved the conflict time is over and who look forward to a better future.
May peace now prevail in Sri Lanka.
Travel there and where to stay…
A seven hour train journey from Colombo brings you to Trincomalee on the East Coast.
Sri Lankan Airlines may also be offering a flight to Trinco’s air strip.
Just north of Trincomalee are the newly re-developing beach of Uppuveli offering a whole range of accomodations.
For special luxury, venture a just bit further north to Nilaveli and stay at Jungle Beach: http://www.ugaescapes.com/junglebeach/